The Daily Exchange: Why Dalton McGuinty will win the election
As a good federal Liberal, what follows hurts me to write, but it will hurt Guy more to read: Dalton McGuinty will win this election because he - and not Tim Hudak - will get the votes of tens of thousands of Ontarians who supported Stephen Harper in May.
Remember the launch of Hudak's "changebook" platform earlier this year? At that time, media and pundits remarked about how the rebranded, centrist PC party now had few major policy differences with the governing Liberals, and even - astonishingly - the NDP. Core conservative policies, to the extent they appear in changebook, had been pushed to the margins (think chain gangs).
For some reason, Hudak's campaign has started walking away from their centrist branding. Why? I don't have an answer, beyond deducing that the PCs' in-writ strategy is based on a false premise - that the “ordinary" Ontario voter is at core a right-winger, part of their base, and will respond positively when hot-buttons are pushed. If I'm right, then the PC strategists have misread why and when Ontarians elect conservatives.
Here's a little secret: The majority of Ontarians are "Red Tories." My old political science textbooks describe this group as “socially responsible but fiscally conservative." (I would add to this "they don't support wacky schemes," like private school tax credits, which is why they kept John Tory out of the Premier's Office in 2007.) Since the writ dropped, Hudak's campaign has offered nothing that would compel Red Tories to vote for the PCs, in spite of the fact that Red Tories paved the road to victory for Jean Chretien, Mike Harris, Dalton McGuinty, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper and, yes, Rob Ford.
Now, this may be because many Ontario PC strategists don't believe Red Tories exist or that, if they do exist, that they matter. They are wrong.
Ontario's Red Tories put - and kept - Jean Chretien in office during his budget-cutting days. In the extraordinary 1995 provincial election, they took a risk on hard-right Mike Harris. They flocked to centrist Dalton McGuinty in 2003, and only abandoned Paul Martin when they thought he had lost the plot on spending. They were targeted by Stephen Harper in the 2006 campaign, helped him survive in 2008, and finally gave him his coveted majority earlier this year.
These leaders won elections in Ontario because they appealed to voters' Red Tory instincts - not because they were Ronald Reagan clones.
If history tells us anything then, it's that, far from being a niche group, Red Tories are actually the "ordinary voters" campaign strategists talk about and lust for. For some reason, PC strategists like Guy haven't accepted this.
For them, "ordinary voters" are Tim Horton's-munching, Labatt 50-swilling knuckleheads who never watch "Meet The Press," couldn't care less about current affairs, and have no idea who, what or where the Tea Party is (even though they supposedly lean right). This view is both wrong and a disservice to Ontarians, who are among the most outward-facing, engaged people on Earth.
Ordinary Ontario voters are kind and sophisticated, and will find Hudak’s recent characterization of their neighbours as “foreigners" offensive. Although they'd appreciate tax relief, they don't want it at the expense of the public services they use and like. They know exactly who and what the Tea Party is, and they can see right through the fuzzy changebook promises and slick branding. And, they will vote accordingly, and overwhelm the small number of Ontarians who resemble Guy's "ordinary voter" caricature.
Barring something extraordinary, it's pretty obvious who ordinary/Red Tory voters will support in this election. As they have done before, they will cast their ballot for the leader with the authentic, centrist plan that is best aligned with how they see the world and live their lives. Because of Tim Hudak's 11th-hour lurch to the right, only Dalton McGuinty fits that bill.
- Erika Mozes, former senior adviser to George Smitherman and Gerard Kennedy
Response from Jeffrey Ferrier, former communications director for the Ontario NDP:
Urgent news flash to the campaigns: Get your buses off the road. Call off your candidates. Shut down the campaign HQs. Bring your leaders home.
The election campaign is over … because the Liberals say it is over.
Here we go again. Team McGuinty is back at it, telling everyone that Liberals are entitled to the votes of Ontarians who don’t support the PCs. That voters don’t have a choice in this election. That ordinary folks must vote Liberal, no matter what.
Here’s the reality. Voters do have choices in this election. The Liberals’ failure to acknowledge this, as they have done in election after election after election, shows disrespect to voters and the democratic process. It is also one of the least attractive parts of the Liberal brand federally or provincially.
So what’s going on here?
This is a Liberal power play. The aim is to marginalize Andrea Horwath, knock New Democrats out of the election and ride a wave of centre-left swing voters straight to the Premier’s office.
The Liberals have done the same thing in election after election after election with some success.
Will it work this time?
So far, it hasn’t. The latest public domain polls show support for Horwath and the NDP continues to grow too. Support for the NDP is in the mid-20s and trending higher.
So why isn’t the Liberal entitlement march working this time? Part of the problem for the Liberals is they aren’t running against a New Democrat team that’s hobbled by the legacy of Bob Rae. I won’t go into details about the legacy now, but if you want to find out more about the man and what he’s up to these days, please visit www.liberal.ca/bob-rae.
McGuinty’s other problem is that he’s running against a New Democrat leader and team offering voters a real, positive choice – change that makes life more affordable by taking HST off essentials, change that creates jobs by rewarding businesses who create jobs for any Ontarian who’s out of work, change that puts people first. This is a powerful reason for voters to come over to Horwath. So far, that's exactly what many voters are doing.
Follow-up news flash to the campaigns: Get back to work. The campaign is wide open. And there’s still a long way to go.
PS: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Labatt 50. It’s made in Canada. It tastes great. And when you bring it to a party, you don’t have to worry about someone swiping it on you.
Response from Guy Giorno, former chief of staff to Mike Harris and Stephen Harper:
Right, Jeff. The election is over because the Liberal brain trust has so decreed.
And apparently it’s all because Stephen Harper is more of a “red Tory” than John Tory … Oh, darn. I’ve lost the thread of Erika’s argument.
What I do know is that this election – just as every election – will be decided by ordinary people.
It’s not surprising that the Liberals feel most in tune with the concerns of ordinary voters. All parties think that of themselves. Ever heard a political strategist admit that his or her party is elitist and out of touch?
Erika says ordinary voters are red Tories. This comment misses the point of what makes an ordinary voter. By and large, most ordinary people don’t classify themselves by attachment to a particular branch of a political party, or to a particular political philosophy.
You see, you can’t categorize ordinary voters the way you would label delegates to a party convention.
How did I describe ordinary voters? Accurately.
Sept. 6, I referred to “ordinary families” as “people who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules.”
Then (Sept. 8) I wrote about “ordinary voters like the one million Ontarians without access to a family doctor.”
But what seems to have triggered the outburst was my Sept. 9 observation that, “Ordinary Ontarians don’t watch Meet the Press. They don’t hang on every development in U.S. politics. Michele Bachmann and Dennis Kucinich aren’t household names in mainstream Ontario.”
I stand by that description. This issue is not sophistication but priorities. Ordinary voters are too busy with work, family and community to obsess like political junkies … or talk like junkies. In all my years watching focus groups, not once have I heard someone call for a “leader with the authentic, centrist plan that is best aligned with how [we] see the world and live [our] lives.”
I don’t think the election is over yet, any more than it was at the same point during the recent federal campaign, when the Liberals held a 10+-point lead over Jack Layton’s New Democrats.